Domestic violence up 5% in county last year

Protective shelter is lacking, new report also finds

May 27, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

As Baltimore County police took an increasing number of domestic violence reports last year, hundreds of women and children seeking protective shelter were turned away because of a lack of space, according to a new report.

The report, the first of its kind from the county's Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, found that the number of police reports on domestic violence incidents last year rose by more than 5 percent, to 10,912, from the year before. At the same time, more than 200 people who requested housing in domestic violence shelters could not be accommodated because the facility was full, according to the report.

Rosalyn Branson, executive director of TurnAround Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps individuals and families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault or abuse, said the report raises the profile of a problem that has remained constant nationally for 20 years and exposes gaps in services for women and children suffering from domestic violence.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the May 27 editions of The Sun incorrectly reported an increase in the number of domestic violence reports taken last year by Baltimore County police. The number of such reports decreased 5.4 percent in 2005 compared with 2004.
The Sun regrets the error.

"One of the biggest holes is that at the point at which a victim needs to be safe and feels like her life is in danger, there should always be a place for them to go, and that's not the case," said Branson, a member of the county Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. "That means we still have a major problem that needs to be dealt with."

She also expressed concern over the difference in the number of people filing requests for temporary protective orders in court and those who follow through five days later at a court hearing where a judge determines whether to extend the protective order for a year.

Protective orders generally prohibit alleged abusers from contacting their victims or going to their homes and workplaces.

"I think that's showing a gap in services, not a sign that the violence has stopped," Branson said. "It's a sign that that person couldn't get back to the courthouse for hearing or doesn't know what to do."

The county Domestic Violence Coordinating Council was created in 1986 with money from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The five members meet monthly to coordinate efforts of law enforcement agencies, county departments and independent service providers who work with domestic violence victims and abusers.

The council's report found that six women, three children and two men were killed last year in the county as a result of domestic violence.

It also included information from four domestic violence service providers that offer emergency and transitional housing, showing that 226 women, 340 children and seven men received shelter in the county last year to protect them from domestic violence.

An additional 1,633 people who requested housing were turned away, according to the report, although many of those did not qualify for the shelter because they were not seeking protection from domestic violence.

Three of the four service providers included in the report specified reasons why people seeking shelter were turned away.

At least 228 people were turned away because of insufficient space in the shelter, according to statistics from the three providers.

Stephen Bailey, a Baltimore County deputy state's attorney, also raised concerns about the relatively small number of people being referred for domestic-violence counseling.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that the number of referrals have gone up," he told the members of the county Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at a recent meeting where the report was presented. "But there still seems like there's some kind of disconnect."

He pointed out that the courts issue more than 1,000 protective orders and his office prosecutes about 2,000 domestic violence cases a year, but only 255 people were ordered last year by a judge to complete domestic violence counseling.

County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox responded that in civil court proceedings, where most protective orders are sought, "treatment is just not on people's radar."

She added that should a judge order a defendant in a civil proceeding to go to counseling, there isn't an effective mechanism for ensuring that he or she complies with that order.

The county Domestic Violence Coordinating Council will focus this year on establishing a fatality review team to analyze cases that result in a death, according to its report.

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

Domestic violence

Statistics on domestic violence last year in Baltimore County:

Six women were killed by an intimate partner.

Three children were killed by a parent or guardian.

Two men were killed, one in a police action during a domestic incident and the other by his spouse.

10,912 domestic violence-related reports were taken by county police.

3,780 domestic violence cases were filed in District Court.

1,065 interim protective orders were granted in District Court. [Source: First Annual Report on Domestic Violence in Baltimore County]

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